Five Minutes With: Jeffrey Firestone, President And Founder, ChariTEES
For nonprofits to recruit volunteers, receive support from donors, reach the people they are in place to help and share critical information about their mission and work, they need the right marketing plan and the tools to make it happen. Jeffrey Firestone, president of distributor The Firestone Group, Inc., in Boca Raton, Florida, and founder of ChariTEES®, the company’s philanthropic arm, provides these critical organizations with access to special pricing for custom-printed t-shirts, uniforms and promotional products along with core marketing collateral to promote their messaging during events, such as conferences, golf tournaments, charity walks and runs and fundraisers. ChariTEES, which was founded by Firestone in 1998 and offers name brands such as Nike Champion, Adidas Golf and The North Face, also operates a longtime program that matches apparel overruns and misprints from industry suppliers with charities in need.
ChariTEES offers its clients—which include community organizations, service clubs, religious groups, schools and summer camps, and socially-conscious corporations—access to three core programs: ChariTEES® CROWD, an ecommerce t-shirt fundraising store for nonprofits with no setup or monthly fees, and no campaign time constraints; ChariTEES® ON CAMPUS, which teaches students about the philanthropy, fundraising and donation process using t-shirts, and includes an ON CAMPUS bookstore program; and ChariTEES® STAR, which invites high-profile celebrities from the sports, entertainment and music industries to design their own collections of custom-printed t-shirts to raise awareness and donations for a charity of their choice. PPB spoke with Firestone to learn more about ChariTEES and how it can help nonprofit clients to further their messages of hope, and continue to improve the quality of life for those they serve.
PPB What inspired you to found ChariTEES, and how has it grown and evolved over the years?
Firestone In 1996, my first t-shirt clients were the Boy Scouts of America, the Light The Night walk by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. With this in mind, I asked myself, “What are we doing, and what do we want to accomplish?” and “How can I help the community with our core business and the profits we make?” It was just so obvious! I was selling custom-printed t-shirts to charities for walks and fundraising events, and I came up with the term “ChariTEES.” I believed in what I was doing, and how I could use my business to help others and also help the 501(c)(3) nonprofit “communi-TEE” and socially‑conscious companies throughout the U.S. We have chosen the .org domain to market and promote our brand, but as our website clearly states, we are a for-profit company. We use our profits to help the community through various donations and scholarship programs, and we offer our nonprofit clients discounted pricing, free art and, when we can, free shipping.
PPB What are some of the unique ways that ChariTEES works to help its nonprofit clients to raise awareness? Can you share a case study with us?
Firestone Our ChariTEES CROWD program offers nonprofits a free sales page to sell tees and raise awareness and donations for their cause. Most small- and medium-sized businesses need a vehicle to do this that is all-inclusive, from art design and web hosting to printing and fulfillment/drop shipping services for individual donors and payment platforms. Our ChariTEES CROWD program addresses all these needs.
We believe t-shirts and apparel continue to be the most popular and visible form of advertising in the promotional products arena, and this is why we concentrate on offering these products to our clients. We have a unique relationship with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., and the shirts we sell are used to further their important mission to eradicate homelessness in the U.S. To see an example of how this program works, visit www.charitees.org/homeless-nch. We will also again offer scan technology for fundraising shirts, where we print a QR code on the sleeve or back of a tee, so potential donors can scan the shirt and the code will link to the charity’s donation page.
PPB Can you share more about the other two services ChariTEES offers its clients: ChariTEES ON CAMPUS and ChariTEES STAR?
Firestone Our ChariTEES ON CAMPUS program teaches and promotes volunteerism and fundraising to our younger generations using t-shirts. Students design a shirt and vote on the best design to be printed and sold at their school. They then learn about different charities, decide which they wish to support and hold a t-shirt fundraiser at school and via social media. ChariTEES supplies the shirts at wholesale cost and provides the promotional materials needed at no cost to promote this fundraiser at their school. Finally, the donations are sent to the chosen charity and recognition is given by the charity to the participating students. We also plan on growing ChariTEES ON CAMPUS with our ChariTEES ambassadors throughout the U.S. who promote our products and services to service clubs and organizations on campus. ChariTEES STAR understands and appreciates the power of social media and how it can raise donations through the efforts of high-profile individuals from the worlds of sports, entertainment and music, to design an exclusive collection of printed t-shirts that will raise awareness and donations for their favorite cause or charity.
PPB What are some current areas of focus for ChariTEES?
Firestone We continue to do good things with t-shirts and raise as much money as possible to give back to the community and/or to offer free services to our nonprofit clients. COVID-19 caused a setback in donations for all nonprofits and we feel it is important to help them in any way we can. We recently started the OveRRuns Project, and we hope that we can attract more vendors in the promotional products industry to help us. To run the program, we need their donations of misprinted, discontinued, cancelled or returned items, such as apparel, socks, blankets, towels, backpacks, toiletries or their overruns that are suitable for donation to our network of homeless and abuse shelters across the U.S. We are also growing our webstore, corporate gifting and employee incentive programs using apparel and promotional products, and we hope to launch a national ChariTEES t-shirt contest to further raise donations and awareness for community causes.
For more information on how you or your business can help ChariTEES achieve its mission, visit www.charitees.org. To make a donation, email email@example.com and mention “OveRRuns" in the subject line.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.